With an outpouring of love from the community, Annette Barnes became the 36th recipient of the Republic’s Woman of the Year.

About 150 people gathered Tuesday night at Donner Center to honor Barnes for decades of work as a pastor, mentor, counselor, youth advocate and community leader.

Barnes said she has always tried to do what God calls her to do, to be the voice of people who don’t have a voice and to give love and support to those who have no one.

“I want to be that touch, or voice for them,” she said of her counseling, mentoring and serving in her volunteer roles in the community.

Story continues below gallery

Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

She was beaming as she looked out at a large contingent of her extended family, her children and grandchildren, many in the front row beaming back at her.

At the conclusion of remarks during the event, Barnes’ son Timothy Robinson said he wanted to add a few more words to the accolades and remembrances regarding her role as a mother.

Robinson noted that when Barnes went through a divorce, she had five young children that she raised as a single parent, getting them all through college and into successful lives and careers today.

“My mom always says, ‘If you have nothing else, you have your family,’ ” he said. “You are the mother of a lifetime.”

The audience that turned out to honor Barnes represented a wide spectrum of the community, with representatives from the city and the county, law enforcement, the judicial system, the faith community and business and industry.

Richard Gold, who serves with Barnes on the Columbus Human Rights Commission, after the ceremony praised the Columbus woman for her dedication to doing what’s right for the community and caring for people in the community who don’t have a voice on important matters.

“You always know where she stands,” Gold said.

Police officers have appreciated her no-nonsense approach as a chaplain for the Columbus Police Department, Lt. Matt Harris also said afterward.

“It’s refreshing for us,” Harris said of Barnes’ work with the officers. “She relates to the officers in a way they can relate to. She understands where they are coming from.”

The Rev. Clem Davis of St. Bartholomew Catholic Church praised Barnes for her love of the Lord and being a good example of what a Christian ought to be.

“She responds to what God wants her to do,” Davis also said after the ceremony. “She’s honest and a woman of integrity.”

Tuesday’s ceremony was bittersweet in that it was the first without the late Harry McCawley, retired Republic associate editor, who had participated in each Woman of the Year program since its 1982 inception and was known as someone who knew more about the recipients than anyone.

McCawley, who died Sept. 28, was remembered during Tuesday’s ceremony with a moment of silence requested by Republic Publisher Chuck Wells.

“It’s not easy standing up here instead of Harry,” Wells said of emceeing the event. “His memory will always be in this room.”

Barbara Johnson of Hope, last year’s Woman of the Year, presented a commemorative necklace to Barnes and congratulated her on the honor.

At the end of the ceremony, Wells presented $2,000 in donations from The Republic to six community organizations chosen by Barnes, all which provide services that are near to her heart — helping children, the elderly, and those needing spiritual or medical care and counseling.

Woman of the Year check recipients

The 2017 Woman of the Year, Annette Barnes, chose the following organizations to receive share $2,000 from The Republic in her honor:

  • The Court Appointed Special Advocate Program in Bartholomew County, which provides adult advocates to represent children in court proceedings.
  • Our Hospice of South Central Indiana
  • Mill Race Center
  • St. Bartholomew Catholic Church
  • Turning Point Domestic Violence Services
  • VIMCare (formerly Volunteers in Medicine), providing health care to people with limited or no health insurance.

About Annette Barnes

Age: 81

City of residence: Columbus

Occupation: Retired

Community service and memberships:

  • Secretary of the Columbus Human Rights Commission, appointed by the Columbus City Council in 2013.
  • Volunteer for Mill Race Center and past volunteer for the Columbus Area Visitors Center.
  • Provides chaplain support and volunteers at Columbus Regional Hospital in its cancer center.
  • Served as executive director of the Youth Advocacy Commission and as a guardian ad litem for the juvenile justice system in Bartholomew County.
  • Member of St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, where she serves as a Eucharistic minister and lector, serves on the Parish Council and performs in the church choir.
  • Is a retired board-certified chaplain and serves as an appointed chaplain for the Columbus Police Department.
  • Served on the 2015 ad hoc subcommittee for the Columbus Human Rights Commission to give a recommendation to amend the city’s ordinance to include sexual orientation, gender identity and age as protected classes.

Education: Graduate of Indiana University, and received a Master of Divinity from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis.

Family: Was married to the late Delmar Barnes; five children, Earle Robinson III, Kenneth Robinson, Diane Robinson King and twins Timothy Patrick Robinson and Michelle Robinson; a stepdaughter, Cynthia Barnes, stepson Michael Barnes and 11 grandchildren.

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.